The two made a comeback in November. They played live and released the single, “Sanokuen.” The free-spirited and catchy song makes the listener want to exclaim, “Welcome back!” Serendipitously, the legendary British musician Elvis Costello praised the anime Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! and the theme song, “Easy Breezy” by chelmico, saying it was “very cool” in October.
It seems like the down-to-earth duo hasn’t changed, but if the above event pushes them forward, the feelings expressed in “Sanokuen” won’t end as a mere fantasy. Their universe is bound to be more widely appreciated.
Three years of growth; from debuting to a change in environment and the pandemic
ーーIt’s been about three years since you debuted. How do you feel looking back?
Mamiko: It was a big deal when Rachel married and had a baby.
ーーDid that affect your music-making?
Mamiko: I don’t think how we make music changed so much. I thought Rachel would be too busy to write songs, but we’re surprisingly managing to make music (laughs).
Rachel: If anything, I think about rapping all day long; I want to use this limited amount of time and make something good.
ーーI see. I assumed it’d be hard to juggle raising a child and working.
Rachel: I physically can’t make more time, so it’s like I have a clear distinction [between child-rearing and work]. Work is so fun right now. I’m happy we could get together like this to talk about music, and I love it more than before. I might be having the most fun right now.
ーーI’m glad to hear that.
Mamiko: Good, good (laughs).
Rachel: I’m glad (laughs). It’s a positive thing for me. I make a song as soon as possible once I think, “I want to make this kind of song” for a while. I’m impressed with how I have it in me (laughs).
ーー(Laughs). Mamiko-san, you’ve released music and performed live as a solo artist.
Mamiko: Yes, it’s fun. My solo music is a different genre from chelmico. I sing, not rap. It was hard to switch moods whenever I had to make music as chelmico and sing live as a solo act, but that was a good experience. I’m not doing live shows for now, but I love making music, so I hope to use the remaining time to do that.
ーーYou two experienced various changes in your environment. Out of the past three years, most of those changes happened during covid. How did you feel being unable to work to the fullest?
Mamiko: It was rough. I couldn’t perform, and it was upsetting. But part of me felt lucky to be able to take a break (laughs). I could focus and do what I enjoy doing.
Rachel: I was like, “I’m going to make music.” Some of the songs on maze, which we released during covid, were about memories of the club. Since we tend to release songs like a diary, they reflect how we feel. Mami released her solo music, and the more we work on our music, the more we learn. So, I think we grew a lot over these three years.
ーーDid the way you understand music change within these three years?
Rachel: Until now, we would get a track from a producer and be like, “I guess I’ll just the lyrics to the track,” but now we say, “This is what we want to do.” We talk about the tone and genre we need to make that happen. I’m getting more particular about the mixing and lyrics, and I’m gaining the know-how and experience to manifest that.
ーーDoes that mean the direction of your music is changing?
Mamiko: It hasn’t changed too much, but our mood has. Our last EP, COZY, was quite relaxed, but “Sanokuen” has a powerful beat, so it might seem like our image has changed.
The upbeat “Sanokuen” and the chelmico-like quality of enjoying music-making
ーー”Sanokuen” is the total opposite of COZY‘s calm and toned-down vibe. But that wasn’t an intentional change either.
Mamiko: Right. We listen to many kinds of music, so each release echoes what we’re into at the time. “Sanokuen” was our first comeback song, so I was hyped and wanted to go into it with confidence. Rachel likes fast, in-your-face songs, so I wanted this song to have a strong Rachel vibe. Maybe that’s why her passion is more apparent in “Sanokuen” (laughs).
Rachel: Yeah, Mami-chan has her solo music, but I wanted to show that we as chelmico could do this kind of thing. I thought it would be nice if the song had the energy only we possess. Above all, we were confirmed to perform live.
ーーIn any case, it’s a catchy song that’s very chelmico. What makes chelmico, chelmico?
Mamiko: I guess it’s our chelmico-ness? Maybe it’s our lyrics?
Rachel: Yeah. Our discography is all over the place (laughs). I wonder what chelmico-ness means to us, but one thing I do know is we don’t lie in our lyrics or our taste in music. We don’t do things we don’t want to do; we don’t force ourselves to use words that don’t fit us. I guess that’s what makes us, us.
Mamiko: It’s very chelmico to do what we like.
ーー”Sanokuen” speaks to that point very well. In the music video, you two seem like you’re having fun.
Mamiko: The theme was more negative at first, like, “I want to escape.” It was about covid. But ultimately, when we got down to it, we were like, “We’d be fine if we had money, right?” (laughs). I didn’t have any harsh words or anger at first, so I wondered if I could write the lyrics. However, I thought I could make it pop if it was about money. So, we discussed it several times and made it.
Rachel: The track also changed drastically. We wanted the riffs to stand out, so that didn’t change, but at first, it had a more ska-ish sound made by a band, and the drums were rough and not clubby.
Mamiko: Yeah, we added many sounds later.
Rachel: The desire to escape and get money is emotionally heavy, so I thought it would be hard to find a balance if the instrumentals were violent. We asked the producer to make the beat sound humorous and give it a silly feel.
ーーWhen I listen to that song, the first vibe I get is that.
Rachel: I say this in the lyrics, but I feel like it’s getting harder for people today to envision what they want to do. With covid and the economy, money’s getting tighter. Because we could get by somewhat, we were like, “I guess this is alright.” But we had doubts, and that’s why Mami-chan raps “Higher and higher” in her lyrics. Of course, it’s a humorous and catchy song, but we wrote it with what I just said in mind. I want the world to be a place where people can be frank and say, “I want to do this,” and dream about it.
ーーYou sometimes express such views on society on Twitter.
Rachel: Once I became a mother, I could empathize with many matters, so it’s nice to say what’s on my mind on social media. Even if it’s something like, “This happened today,” or an update, I’m going to continue posting online. I want people to say, “I want money!” when they hear “Sanokuen” (laughs).
Mamiko: Exactly (laughs). I’d be happy if people could listen to it and laugh at how silly it is.
Recognition from people overseas: “I want people to notice us more”
ーーYou collaborated with Thai duo LUSS this year. They approached you two, yes?
Rachel: LUSS was looking for someone to collaborate with, so they approached us because they liked us.
Mamiko: They’re always on the lookout for music, so I assume they found us by chance. We listened to their music and liked what we heard, and decided to work together.
ーーDo you have any intentions of working abroad?
Rachel: I want to so badly. Of course, this is thanks to the power of anime, but when (Elvis) Costello complimented our music the other day, I was so happy he liked it even though he doesn’t understand the language.
Mamiko: That made me so happy. It was amazing. It made me feel like we were finally recognized.
Mamiko: It’s not that we hadn’t been recognized before, it’s that we didn’t even think about it. I felt like someone listened to our music for the first time when Costello-san said that.
Rachel: Especially with people abroad. I know people in Japan listen to our music, but I think this was the first time someone with a music career made a public statement about us. Wait, no, Yuming-san listens to our music (laughs).
Mamiko: It was nice to hear that from Yuming-san. But Costello-san’s comment made me very happy. That made me want to go abroad even more.
ーーHis recognition of you is remarkable, but the fact that he found your music is impressive in and of itself. Elvis Costello is a legendary musician, and your music and generation are vastly different.
Rachel: Exactly. It’s one thing to have someone listen to our music, but it felt good to have someone talk about it and truly appreciate it. I’m serious about our work, so I was so glad to know that someone listened to it.
Mamiko: Yeah. I was wondering why people didn’t notice us (laughs).
Rachel: I want people to notice us more (laughs). We love our music so much. I want people in Japan and abroad to listen to us more!
ーーThat’s the spirit.
Mamiko: You can play our songs even more if you want (laughs).